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Low-Bar Squat, Shoulder Mobility, Elbow Pain


Hello everyone,

I'm trying to switch from squatting high-bar to more of a low-bar position for two reasons. First, the high-bar squat seems to be mechanically difficult for me and I'm able to maintain much better technique, keep the stress off of my wonky knees and (logically) lift more using a low-bar position. Second, I've been experiencing light elbow tendonitis of late (golfer's elbow) and can pretty much chalk it up to having to support a lot of the bar's weight using my hands (and, ultimately, wrists and elbows) while high-bar squatting.

There is one big problem in my transition to low-bar: it kills my shoulders, and I'm sure that this is a mobility issue. I have pretty bad thoracic/overhead mobility and I can't really get into a comfortable position while staying tight in the upper back. I've been following Rippetoe's advice on hand and bar placement for the low-bar squat (as per the following YouTube video), since this takes almost all of the pressure off of the elbows. However, I can't reasonably hold this position for more than a couple of reps, since my shoulders begin to burn.

Has anyone had a similar problem? I've been working on my overall thoracic mobility with the foam roller and using various drills, but does anyone have any warm-up tips for squat workouts that would loosen up the shoulders, or any pointers for the set-up that might alleviate this problem?

Thanks in advance!


Squat everyday. Seriously, does not have to be anything heavy, 135 is more than enough. try to do sets of 10. Your shoulders will open up in no time.


Something I've done to relieve my biceps was to go pinky less on warm ups, this makes it so much easier to get the shoulders warm before you take a regular grip.

Also I find a small back workout does a good job of getting you ready to squat, I regularly do 50 band pull aparts before every squat workout.


Hey Mat, thanks for the pointers. I always carry around some Rogue bands in my gym bag, so I'll try some pull-aparts before my next workout. What do you make of shoulder dislocates for this purpose? Also useful?

And niksamaras, I was thinking about that as well, but fear that putting that kind of strain on my shoulders every day would end pretty fast in an overuse injury... At least judging upon how my shoulders feel from today's workout alone. Any thoughts?


I'm right there with you. My posterior shoulder capsule is so tight that it's led to some pretty bad Anterior Humeral Glide Syndrome, so needless to say squatting low bar doesn't just happen naturally. My recommendation is to continue doing thoracic foam rolling, foam roll your posterior shoulder capsule, lats, and pecs if they're tight, and then do some wall slides and BTN band pull aparts with an emphasis on external rotation. That on top of enough light warmup sets with a wider grip have let me squat low bar properly without any pain.


Along with bands, we have 6' pieces of 1/2" and 1" PVC in our gym. Good way for me to warm up my shoulders w/dislocates, etc.


You are not actually using your shoulders per se, just stretching them really bad. I don't see an overuse injury coming from that.


The dislocates are good, but I was doing the band pull aparts everyday, and i was really working on pulling my scapula's back at the time... my shoulders were very rounded forward before, but after about a year of really working at it I have no problems at all.


For me the problem is poor shoulder internal rotation. I found that high bar actually takes more thoracic flexibility than low bar. The flexibility in low bar seems to mostly be shoulder, and hip external rotation whereas high bar seems to take more thoracic, hip flexor, and ankle mobility.


Alright, folks, thanks for the tips. Going to do some more band pull-aparts as part of my warm-up and try to get into the low-bar position with every workout to stretch out the muscles involved. Hopefully I'll see some progress soon!


Quick update: tried out some band pull-aparts as part of my warm-up for squats today, and they indeed seemed to alleviate my shoulder problems a bit. I'll continue to do this and will try to get into the low-bar position as much as possible to loosen up those muscles.

It doesn't help that my heavy bench day comes the day before squatting, since my shoulders and entire chest are then tight as heck.


I'll throw front squats/front squat holds out there. Feel like they've helped out my thoracic mobility and shoulder health.


along with the mentioned front squats in the warm up, try some overheads squats in your warm up. i also find wearing wrist wraps when my elbows hurt a way to alleviate elbow pain. its almost like it puts my entire arm in a better position.


Hey everyone, just a quick update: despite doing a ton of shoulder mobility work and band pull-aparts prior to squatting, I still experience elbow pain during and after squat workouts, which is now migrating into the shoulder capsule. It’s getting to be annoying and is distracting me a bit from my current squat peaking cycle.

I’m thinking I’ll have to use more of a hybrid bar position rather than going low-bar. But I still notice that my shoulder internal rotation (I think?) and overhead mobility is very poor – I use a false grip (as shown above) but can’t keep my hands, wrists and forearms in a straight line and keep my elbows under the bar if I use a normal grip. I think targeting this ROM specifically will improve things.

Any thoughts/pointers?